No Matter What

By Sarah Arthur Butler , Nov 05, 2018

Outside of the Lord’s unearned favor for those who trust in Him, no one adores a child more than their parents. No one loves them more than we do. No one sees their gifts, talents, and potential like we do. No one has greater hopes for their futures than we do. We believe in them. No matter what.

When I moved to the Twin Cities with small children, we planned family field trips to explore local treasures like the zoo, arboretum, and museums. However, our favorite discovery was on a much smaller scale.

Following tips from a neighbor, we found a small tree at the edge of Lake Harriet that housed “Mr. Little Guy.” The tree was so nondescript that most people walked right past it. It took a discerning eye to see the tiny door at the base of the trunk that opened into a hollow, inviting letters to be deposited and collected. Kids wrote and signed messages, stuffed them in the tree, and returned a few days later to find a personally addressed reply on an itty-bitty piece of silver paper. Tall tales in tiny type described the latest elf adventures. The whimsy was appealing and the underlying message was compelling. The consistent sign off to every little letter was, “I BELIEVE IN YOU,” capped off with a signature in red ink.

Although we visited for a decade or more, we never saw who shuttled messages to and from the tree. Still, their words of encouragement stayed very visible. Posted on bathroom mirrors in our home, pasted into scrapbooks, and proudly shared with family and friends, the pervasive message, “I BELIEVE IN YOU,” kept us coming back for more.

I recall working hard to have my own parents feel proud of me. Perhaps not all children feel that way, but as an educator, I often see the results in students who have felt the loss of their parent’s support. Recently, my husband and I had an emotional conversation with one of our adult children about a sensitive issue for all of us. When asked what was behind the tears, the answer was, “because I think you are disappointed in me instead of pleased with my choices.” While that wasn’t the case, clearly the desire for a parent’s favor is still there in our adult children. 

The fact is, most sons and daughters struggle at some point to find approval. Sometimes it’s a crisis of confidence. It could be from the shame and guilt that follows poor choices. Other times, it’s founded in failure. I’m not suggesting that our children should not face the consequences of their actions. The reality is mistakes are costly. It is also a reality when someone important to our children chooses to support them, they have an easier time believing they can overcome the odds. Sending the message, “I believe in you no matter what,” can be a critical lifeline and launching pad.

It’s altogether too easy to wait to support our students until they prove to us they are worthy of our support. However, that’s not what God models for us. He tells us we are worthy of His favor even when it looks like we are in a no-win situation. 

I was recently reminded of an example in Jeremiah 32 of God’s assurance that NOTHING is impossible for Him. He transcends all circumstances. The army of Babylon had Jerusalem under siege. It was inevitable that the city would be delivered into the hands of the enemy. Jeremiah was imprisoned. Things looked dire for the entire community. 

Despite the circumstances, the Lord spoke to Jeremiah with direct instructions to buy a field he was entitled to in the territory that would soon be in the hands of the enemy. Even if Jeremiah was free to work the field, it seemed certain he would never have the opportunity to do so. In the face of disaster, the Lord said, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah obeyed. Buying the field sent a clear message that God was bigger than the circumstances. Jeremiah’s hope stayed rock solid God’s promise to restore His people to Jerusalem and bring them out of calamity and into peace and prosperity would be carried out. 

If we believe God brings a return on investments that appear to be lost, can we also trust Him to restore our children who are struggling? Today’s circumstances do not have to determine the future. God is in the business of redeeming even YEARS that were wasted or lost to destructive forces. Joel 2:25 promises that “God will restore the years the locusts ate.” 

When our students fail a course, have a mental health crisis, compromise their integrity, and make costly mistakes, can we remember that next to God, we are the ones best equipped to see them realistically AND see their potential? Can we risk support even when it looks like, at least for now, they are in a no-win situation? Can we trust God is bigger than their circumstances? Can we maintain hope FOR them when their own hope is in short supply? After all, if nothing is impossible for God, with Him, we can get to the other side of any challenge. As His personal ambassadors of hope to our children, we could start with a little letter on the bathroom mirror that says, “I BELIEVE IN YOU, no matter what.”  

Portrait of Sarah Butler

Sarah Arthur Butler

Assistant Dean, College of Graduate, Online & Adult Learning

Supporting non-tradional learners is my primary role at UNW. I consider it a privilege to encourage and equip staff and students in the Dual Enrollment (PSEO...

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